September 11 - Eight Years Later


It has been 8 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Where were you on that fateful day and what have you done since then? How many of you have become EMT's or other emergency service providers because of 9-11?

I just wanted to share with you my thoughts on that day. I was at work performing my non-EMS related job. I heard on the radio that that a plane had crashed into the Towers. Being from the New York City area and having seen many small private planes fly up and down the Hudson River I naturally thought that a small plane had crashed. In fact, several years prior a small plane did crash into a building in New York.

When I heard a second plane crashed and that is was a Boeing 767 I knew we had been attacked. I did not know details but I felt a strong urge to respond like many thousands of others.

I responded to my volunteer ambulance headquarters in Bogota, New Jersey (about 10 miles line of site from Ground Zero). We had been dispatched to Jersey City (Liberty State Park) across the Hudson River from the Towers. Unlike many responding agencies we were on the mutual aid list for Jersey City since many of our members had at one time worked for the Medical Center in Jersey City. The crew that responded was Charlmarie Hanley, Micheal Dirr, the late Walter Braun and James Berthold (myself).

Both towers had collapsed by the time we reported to staging. We could both see and smell the wreckage. The plume of smoke billowed up hundreds of feet and blew away to the southeast. All of lower Manhattan (normally visible from the state park) was obscured. When we got to staging we were assigned four FDNY firefighters to be transported to the medical center. Mike and Charlmarie were left at staging to help set up the triage station and Walter and I took the firefighters to the medical center. The were from the Brooklyn Metro Technical Rescue Squad. One had a broken femur, another with a collapsed lung, one blinded by flying glass and their lieutenant to accompany them. The blinded firefighter asked were he was and I said Jersey City. He had no clue how he got there. Years later I found out that the three injured men made full recoveries but all retired from the fire service.

The next 24 hours are a blur. We, and about 100 other EMT's from other norther New Jersey squads, triaged and transported over 3,000 patients. The patients just kept coming. Many thanked us, most were in a daze.

There were some singular events that I do remember. I remember the husband of a women who worked with coming up to me. He was so happy to see somebody he knew. A woman came up to me with a small child (a baby really) who needed to get in touch with the parents. Both parents worked in the towers (which had some sort of day care). Fortunately both parents were out of the buildings at the time of collapse (but we did not know that). The childcare provider knew the baby lived in Bogota and I was wearing a Bogota EMS tee-shirt. Using our radio we made contact with our police desk and they sent a cruiser to pick the baby up and deliver him to his aunt. Both child and parents were re-united the next day.

So much more happened. I never made it across the river that day (although I did days later). I got home on Thursday (the attack was on Tuesday). I saw various federal and state law enforcement agencies duking it out on the lawn. I saw the orange juice company Tropicana donate 1000 oranges (all frozen). I also saw several tons of medical equipment donated, most of which we never used.

Some much happened that it took me a year to sort it out in my mind. It took me a month to see video of the plane crashes and to this day I still can not watch it. If I hear of a program on 9-11 I turn it off. I never saw the movie of United Flight 93 (although I have no doubt that the passengers that day were truly heros).

I have watched movies claiming conspiracy theories and being really angry and then seeing movies debunking the conspiracies and cheering. I guess 8 years later I still have some issues to resolve.

Remember those who have fallen. Say a silent prayer and take care of yourself and your partners.

With great respect,

James Berthold

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